As fans of the Terminator movies can tell you, keeping track of things in a time travel story can sometimes be tricky. Consider, for a moment, Rysa Walker’s new novel, Now, Then, And Everywhen (paperback, Kindle), which is the first novel of her new series, CHRONOS Origins, which is itself a prequel to her CHRONOS Files series…despite the fact that — as she explains in the following email interview about all of this — this new novel starts after the CHRONOS Files novels.
Photo Credit: Jeff Kolbfleisch
I’d like to begin with some background. For people who haven’t read them, what are the CHRONOS Files novels about?
The CHRONOS Files tells the story of Kate Pierce-Keller, who discovers that her grandparents were all temporal historians born several centuries after her own birth. One of her grandfathers, Saul Rand, destroyed the CHRONOS agency in an act of sabotage, unexpectedly locking the signal of himself and other members of the cohort, stranding them in the past without the ability to time travel. Saul’s goal of reshaping history by creating his own religion as a base of power seems to have been thwarted until he learns that those who inherited the genetic ability can still use the equipment. He sets out to create a small army of time travelers to spread the Cyrist religion in the past, with the eventual goal of creating an idyllic planet where there is no dissent over politics, economics, or religion for the simple reason that everyone follows his lead. Kate’s grandmother, Katherine Shaw, is determined to stop him, but since she can no longer use the CHRONOS key to travel, she needs Kate’s help.
In the first book in the series, Timebound, Saul has Katherine killed preemptively, when she was a young historian researching the 1893 World’s Fair. Kate is the only one who can set things right (and ensure her continued existence) by preventing that murder. Doing so, however, will erase the past few months and her relationship with the guy she loves — and it might land her in the path of a serial killer.
And then for those who have read them, what are Now, Then, And Everywhen and the CHRONOS Origins novels about, and how do they connect, chronologically and narratively, to the CHRONOS Files stories?
That’s an excellent question, and I’m afraid that my answer will muddy the waters. In one sense, CHRONOS Origins is a prequel series…that occurs several centuries after the events in the first series, but let’s leave that aside for now. I contend that it’s still a prequel because we see Kate Pierce-Keller’s grandparents before the act of sabotage that strands them in the past and we follow events leading up to the incident. In the first book, Now, Then, And Everywhen, one of the main characters is Tyson Reyes, a fellow CHRONOS historian and friend of Kate’s grandmother, Katherine. He’s pretty sure that something he did in 1965 has screwed up the timeline, resulting in several early deaths — John Lennon and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others — with the end result of a six-month extension to the Vietnam War and a massive timeshift.
On the other hand, CHRONOS Origins is a sequel series, since the second main character is Madison Grace, Katherine Shaw’s great-great-great-great-granddaughter. She unearths (literally) a CHRONOS key in the garden of the house she inherited and finds herself (again, quite literally) in deep water as a result. She returns from an experiment with the key to find a massive timeshift where the Vietnam War is extended and a friend has been erased as a result.
Tyson and Madi both assume their actions resulted in the time rift, but as they join forces to investigate, they discover that there are other forces at play — and Saul Rand might not be the only person out to change history.
The books in the CHRONOS Files were science fiction stories. Is Now, Then, And Everywhen also one, or are there some other genres at work in this book as well?
I’d say there are other genres at work in both series. They’re both science fiction in that I have some scientific basis for the mode of time travel and explore some of the genetics and quantum physics behind it. That said, like most time travel books, those explanations probably won’t sit well with those who prefer hard science in their fiction.
I also include elements from the mystery genre, which comes fairly naturally since I write mysteries under another pen name, and almost all of my books have at least a touch of romance.
Finally, there is a lot of very real history in these books. I taught American history and government before I began writing fiction, and I dig deep into the historical settings and events my characters explore. At the end of each book, I also add a section that helps people sort fact from fiction.
The CHRONOS Files novels were also young adult stories. Is Now, Then, And Everywhen one as well? And if so, do you think old adults — like, say, some guy who’s a 52-year-old geek — would enjoy this story?
I have always adhered to the strict definition of “young adult”: the protagonist is under the age of eighteen. There can be sex in YA books. There can be bad language and graphic violence in YA books. But the protagonist is not an adult.
An entirely separate category is “clean reads” where language and sexual content (and, to a lesser extent for some reason, violence) are kept to a minimum. The CHRONOS Files series was both YA because Kate is sixteen or seventeen throughout the series, and also a clean read because it veered away from f-bombs and kept the sex strictly PG-13.
The CHRONOS Files was a young adult series, but the vast, vast majority who have read the series are adults, including many who are, for example, middle-aged male geeks. That actually wasn’t something that I anticipated when I wrote Timebound, but I think it caught on with adults for the simple reason that I refused to write down to my audience. The themes in the series are ones that I think are accessible to older teens, but they also resonate with adults who aren’t put off by a coming-of-age story. There’s some romance, but it’s not the main point of the story. And the series deals with some fairly deep philosophical and social issues.
On the other hand, CHRONOS Origins is not a young adult series. I simply couldn’t find a plausible way to again put the fate of the timeline into the hands of a seventeen-year-old. Madi and Tyson are both in their mid-twenties. Both are in what passes for graduate school in their respective eras, since Tyson is just finishing field training as a temporal historian and Madi is working on her master’s thesis in literary history. It is also not a clean read, mostly due to language. They use the language most twenty-somethings use, so there are some f-bombs and a bit more sexual content. I’ve taken a little heat for that from some readers, but I believe each character needs to have his or her own voice. There’s nothing at all in the books that I would consider inappropriate for high school students who have read the first series and want to continue on. I have two older teens in the house, and there’s nothing in the new series that shocked them…or that they haven’t said or heard me say. But that’s a judgment call, obviously.
Now, Then, And Everywhen starts out in 2136. Why did you start there as opposed to 2036 or 2236 or 12136?
One of the two main characters, Madison Grace, is the descendant of the main character in The CHRONOS Files. She is also, at least according to future history books, part of the team who developed the technology for time travel in the year 2160, and this iteration of the timeline speeds that up a bit so that placed us in the 2130s. The events that take place at CHRONOS itself are much farther in the future, in 2305.
Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on Now, Then, And Everywhen but not on the books of the CHRONOS Files?
Most of the influences were the same for the two series, although I think David Gerrold’s The Man Who Folded Himself is probably more of a direct influence on this book, in the sense of spinning off a multitude of realities. And maybe Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife.
What about non-literary influences; was Now, Then, And Everywhen influenced by any movies, TV shows, or video games?
I try to steer clear of time travel stories in any form when I’m writing time travel for fear of getting my wires crossed. That said, I made an exception for 11/22/63 by Stephen King because I’ve been reading King books when they come out since I was twelve and that’s not likely to change. I also watched the limited series based on the book. That might have given a nudge toward the setting in the mid-1960s, but I think that was influenced more by my own past with that era and my recollections of growing up in a family on the wrong side of the Civil Rights movement or pretty much any sort of social progress.
And what about your hyperactive golden retriever? What influence did he have on Now, Then, And Everywhen?
I’ve had several readers ask if Griffin was the influence for Daphne, the Irish setter in The CHRONOS Files who plays an indirect, but pivotal, role at the beginning of this book as well. Griffin — who is a red golden, arrived on the scene after those books were written — does look a bit like a much larger version of Daphne. If anything, the causal arrow should be reversed since I may have been thinking of Daphne when we chose him from the rescue organization.
Griffin’s main influence on my writing is making me get up from the desk on occasion and sharing my snacks.
As we’ve been discussing, Now, Then, And Everywhen is the first book of the CHRONOS Origins series. What can you tell us about this sub-series in the sense of how many books you think it will be, when the others may be out, etc.?
The series is intended as a trilogy, although I suspect that there will be one or two novellas or short stories in between, as was the case with The CHRONOS Files. I’ve just finished the second edit on Red, White, And The Blues, which is slated to launch in January of next year and is set mostly in New York City during the 1939-1940 World’s Fair, as Tyson, Madi, and the others attempt to ensure that the US enters World War II on schedule.
As for whether the end of the series means the end of this time travel universe…probably not. I have an idea for a stand-alone novel set in the early 24th century where CHRONOS would be part of the backdrop, and there’s something else I’d like to explore a bit that might morph into an additional time travel series. That’s probably a few years down the pike, however, since I usually need a time travel break to untangle my brain a bit.
I’m also curious to hear if you think Now, Then, And Everywhen would be a good place to start exploring these larger CHRONOS Files series, or, for that matter, your oeuvre?
Now, Then, And Everywhen was planned as an alternative entry point. I think it works well as that, especially for those who don’t mind a few teasers that can be answered in the earlier works and those who are seasoned time-travel readers who are more adept at the mental gymnastics the genre sometimes requires. Starting with Timebound, however, is probably a gentler introduction to the world.
Earlier I asked if Now, Then, And Everywhen had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or video games. But has there been any interest in turning it, or the CHRONOS Files series for that matter, into a movie, show, or game?
I am about to sign an option agreement for developing the CHRONOS Files as an extended series. This is the second group I’ve worked with, and back in 2015, I was convinced TV wouldn’t be the best fit because I was still thinking in more episodic terms. Now I’m entirely in the opposite camp, given how many incredible series I’ve binge-watched over the past few years.
If Now, Then, And Everywhen and the CHRONOS Files does get made into a TV series, who would you like them to cast in the main roles and why them?
For the CHRONOS Files, casting has always been a tough question because several key characters are teens and by the time anything gets moving, those actors have aged out of the role. I can tell you that I’d love to see [Knives Out‘s] Jamie Lee Curtis as Katherine, because she plays wonderfully snarky, intelligent women so well. I’d love Hailee Steinfeld [Bumblebee] for Kate. She’s incredible in Dickinson and I think she’s talented enough to pull off the role of Prudence, as well, unless they can find someone who is close enough physically. Bailee Madison [Good Witch] would also be a very good choice because she reminds me so much of the Kate who lives in my head. I think [Sex Education‘s] Asa Butterfield would be an excellent Kiernan. And I always pictured Trey as Jensen Ackles [Supernatural] back when he was on Days of Our Lives, so I’ll just leave that as guidance for the casting director. If they want to recast Daphne as a golden retriever instead of an Irish setter (or if she needs a love interest), Griffin would be happy to audition.
Moving on to Now, Then, And Everywhen…Chloe Grace Moretz [Greta] would be a great Madi. She has the right amount of spunk and brings a lot of emotion to her roles. Tyson is a challenge, though. The closest I can get to someone young enough to play him now would be Jacob Artist…but he will always and forever be a young Wentworth Miller in my head.
Finally, if someone enjoys Now, Then, And Everywhen, and they’ve read all of the CHRONOS Files novels as well, what time travel sci-fi novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read next and why that?
Yikes. No way I can pick just one.
1. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger because it was poignant and thought-provoking. And it made me cry. The movie…not so much.
2. The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold because it gave me a lovely time-travel headache.
3. After that…Kindred by Octavia Butler, and series by Nathan Van Coops, Shawn Inmon, and Connie Willis.
Even narrowing it down that much is painful. If anyone gets through that list and is still looking for more, they can hit me up on social media. Because I definitely have more.